In our new column See This Not That, we'll break down two different -- but kinda sorta related -- films for you every Tuesday.
This week, what’s the difference between a man on a wire and a man on a ledge? One will leave you feeling like you’re on top of the world, the other dizzy from a plot that makes you wish the man in question would just hurry up and jump.
For genuine top-of-the-world thrills, feast your eyes on James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary "Man on Wire." It recounts what many dub the “artistic crime of the century,” orchestrated by 24-year-old French high-wire walker and street performer Philippe Petit. In 1974 he teetered across a wire he and his friends had illegally strung from one World Trade Center tower to the other. Between the world’s then-tallest buildings, 1,350 feet in the air, he crossed eight times with police waiting on both sides to arrest him for disturbing the peace.
Marsh’s mesmerizing documentary chronicles Petit’s quest and breathtaking triumph, utilizing the recollections of Petit and his accomplices and actual footage of the feat as well as death-defying rehearsals atop Notre Dame and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. Add to that reenacted scenes of his amateur cohorts scouting the site and obtaining fake IDs for a bit of heist-like suspense, and it’s a wondrous trip back in time that elevates and inspires -- lifting you off the pavement and into the clouds.
Releasing on DVD this week, "Man on a Ledge" stars Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy, an escaped convict determined to prove his innocence in the most daring, dumb-luck dependent way possible. He creates a diversion by climbing out on a hotel ledge and attracting a crowd of compassionate New Yorkers who encourage him to jump. Meanwhile, his brother (Jamie Bell) and girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) bungle their way through a heist in the building across the street to steal a diamond from the evil real estate mogul who put Nick in jail.
It’s a precarious and complex master plan that hinges on the leap of faith of a police negotiator (Elizabeth Banks), Cassidy’s ability to leap from ledge to ledge without tumbling to his death, and a host of other improbabilities, not to mention the film’s mishmash of heist, fugitive and other rehashed action-movie themes. While moderately entertaining, "Man on a Ledge" is an ultimately forgettable piece of cinema.